Iraq will start arrangements next week to hold a fourth licensing auction to award several oil and gas exploration contracts to international companies, a senior Iraqi oil official said yesterday.

“God willing, we hope to hold the fourth bid round this year,” Abdul Mahdy Al-Ameedi, head of Iraq’s Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate, told Dow Jones Newswires.

Al-Ameedi, whose office engineered three rounds in the last two years that led to awarding 15 oil and gas fields, didn’t say how many exploration blocks would be offered in the new auction, but said it would include oil and gas ones.

Formerly, the country’s newly appointed oil minister Abdul Kareem Luaiby said that Iraq would offer some 12 blocks.

“The plan is to tender for blocks in governorates where no fields were offered in the first three rounds such as Najaf and Kerbala governorates,” he said, adding that Western Anbar province, home to the Akkas gas field could also be included.

Iraq has so far held three successful petroleum bidding rounds over the last two years that led to the award of some of the country’s prized oil and gas fields throughout the country. These would help more than quadruple the country’s production.